The Kathmandu Valley, political and commercial hub of Nepal, is famous for its natural beauty and history. It is situated at an altitude of 1336m above sea level and covers an area of 218 sq. miles. The rich tapestry of the cultural heritage of Nepal is synthesized in the Kathmandu Valley, home of the ancient and sophisticated Newari culture. The Newars are the indigenous inhabitants of the valley and the pioneers of the splendid culture of its three cities.
Kathmandu Durbar Square (World Heritage Sight)
Kathmandu Durbar Square is an overwhelming frenzy of art and architecture. The medieval palace complex is erected in different styles right beside the Kumari Temple. The enormous courtyard is locally known as the Basantapur Durbar, or Nautale Durbar, and the locality is called Basantapur. The square was constructed in 1770 AD upon the initiation of King Prithivi Narayan Shah to commemorate his successful conquest of the Kathmandu Valley in 1768 AD. The massive pagoda-like structure in the centre houses the tutelary deity of the Malla Kings. The palace building is a maze of stone-paved quadrangles. Coronation ceremonies, until recently, were performed in the main courtyard, the Nyasal Chowk. The palace façade is a mosaic of intricately carved windows, shaded by gently sloping roofs of shimmering brown tiles.
Kumari Temple (House of the Living Goddess)
It is the house-like pavillion located on the left hand side of the huge courtyard known as Basantapur. In Kathmandu valley, there are temples built in different styles such as the Pagoda style, the Stupa style, the Summit style and the Muslim style. This temple is built in the Harmaya style. In this design, a courtyard is surrounded on all four sides by residential buildings and, generally the deity of the temple is placed directly behind the front gate. In this shrine, however, there is no image inside because it is the home of the Living Goddess, a young girl who reigns as the goddess Kumari until she reaches puberty. The girl generally remains unseen, although, if she chooses, she can appear at the window of the second floor opposite the main gate.
Swayambunath/Monkey Temple (World Heritage Site)
The Swayambhu Stupa crowns a hillock to the west of Kathmandu. A massive white dome surmounted by a 13-stage spire, the stupa is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Nepal. It is said to be 2000 years old. Its origins are linked to the creation of the Kathmandu Valley by Bodhisattva Manjushree. Legend has it that the site of the present day city was originally a huge lake. Swayambhu was manifested in the lake as a brilliant light emanating from a lotus and Manjushree let the water out by slashing a passage through the surrounding hills to facilitate paying homage to the deity, thus making the valley habitable.
Bouddhanath (World Heritage Site)
This is the world's biggest stupa located about 2 kilometres to the north of Pashupatinath Temple. This colossal edifice is known by the name of Bouddhanath, the god of wisdom. It is difficult to assign a period to its creation, as some believe that it was built during the reign of either Shiva Dev or Anshu Verma in the 7th century AD. The design is much like the Swayambhu Stupa, except that the spire consists of squares diminishing in size successively, instead of circles. Bouddhanath attracts Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world.
Pashupatinath (World Heritage Site)
One of the holiest Hindu shrines in the world, the temple of Pashupatinath is the focus of pilgrims from all over Nepal and India. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is built in the familiar Pagoda style. Chronicles indicate the temple's existence prior to 400 AD. It lies 5 km east of the city center. This holy place is a picturesque collection of temples and shrines. The corpses of all deceased Hindus are taken to Pashupatinath for cremation. Only Hindus are allowed entry to the inner sanctum.